A proposed state plan might alleviate sound issues for residents of Shirley Hills and North Highlands neighborhoods, but some residents say it could also detract from the view of the Ocmulgee River.
A meeting Thursday of residents, the Georgia Department of Transportation and construction firm Moreland-Altobelli was ostensibly about how the neighborhood wanted the design of concrete sound barriers to look when the Interstate 16/ Interstate 75 interchange is redesigned. Work is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2017, state officials said at Thursdays meeting.
However, a number of residents expressed concerns about having sound barriers extend onto the bridge over the Ocmulgee, saying it will obstruct the view of the river from the interstate.
The 22- to 25-foot concrete sound barriers are part of the reconstruction of I-75 just south of the Pierce Avenue exit to Hardeman Avenue and I-16 from I-75 to Walnut Creek. They would be included along the part of the interstate that crosses over the Ocmulgee.
Don and Norma Banks, who live along the Ocmulgee, questioned the need for the sound barriers.
One of the best commodities we have is the river, Don Banks said. What I want to know is why.
Norma Banks said she and her husband arent complaining about the project itself and say noise currently isnt an issue for them. She said a friend who lives farther up I-75 where barriers already have been erected told them noise issues are worse than before the barriers were put up.
Foy Tinsley, who lives in Shirley Hills, said hes fine with the noise barriers, but he doesnt want them once the interstate crosses the river.
People who enjoy the river should be able to see it, he said.
DOT officials said the sound barriers are now standard practice by the agency. In addition, officials said that during a similar meeting in 2010, residents asked for the barriers all along the interstate, including over the river.
About 70 residents attended Thursdays meeting. Though officials tried to keep the agenda on topic by limiting the conversation to sound barriers, some residents chose to comment about other DOT projects. Id like you to get the whole interstate right before you talk about barriers, resident Rebecca Rankin told DOT officials. Youre just going to change it all in a year, anyway. Youre the biggest bunch of liars Ive ever seen in my whole life.
Macon City Councilman Rick Hutto, who lives in Shirley Hills, had a lengthy discussion with some DOT officials, challenging what they said during past meetings.
Theyre going to do whatever they want, which is what they always do, he said. This is just window dressing. I was at the original meeting at (the) Pleasant Hill (neighborhood) (several) years ago, and they didnt do what they said they were going to do.
Neighborhood residents have 10 days to pick a style among four choices: a plain concrete finish, a patterned stone, concrete with a specific theme (such as birds, for example), or another option suggested by residents.
Officials said the construction cost for the project would be in the $300 million range and would take at least four or five years to complete once it begins.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.